News Release

Hack for NF winning projects announced

New apps and research studies conceptualized to advance research and enhance collaboration between patients and healthcare providers

Grant and Award Announcement

Children's Tumor Foundation

Hack for NF, a hackathon for neurofibromatosis research hosted by the Children’s Tumor Foundation, today announced the winners of the 2020 virtual event that brought together healthcare startups, developers, solutions architects, and hackathon enthusiasts for six weeks to drive scientific and medical innovation and improve the lives of patients living with neurofibromatosis and other rare diseases. Solutions range from new ways to analyze data and identify new drugs and drug targets; to engaging patients via mobile devices; to data visualization apps and analytical tools for the NF portal. Each winning project will receive $7,500 to continue developing their projects.

The winning projects of the 2020 Hack for NF announced today include: 

  • “AVI: A Virtual Pet for Children with NF,” a tool that utilizes natural language processing to help engage children in recording their NF symptoms over time to help track their health and collect data for physicians; 
  • “NF Matrix,” a comprehensive platform that integrates the needs of NF patients, providers and researchers and is flexible across devices; 
  • “Self-updating causal models to accelerate discovery in NF,” a research platform that utilizes text mining and natural language processing to build, update and test causal models of NF to help researchers discover and interpret relevant new findings.

While mobilizing the scientific community across the globe to accelerate research progress for NF, the first NF Incubator was also launched, with additional funding provided by the Children’s Tumor Foundation, Neurofibromatosis Therapeutic Acceleration Program (NTAP), the Gilbert Family Foundation (GFF), and Arctoris to qualifying teams who choose to continue working on their projects for 3-6 months.

The projects qualifying for a total of $22.5K in incubation funding included: 

  • “Veometrics” - a prototype based on algorithms used in the videogame industry to develop a volumetric measure of cutaneous NF lesions using 3D graphics modeling. 
  • “Gene network network-based drug discovery in plexiform neurofibromas” - a study that used gene co-expression network modules that correlated with other drug response data from PN cell lines to identify potential new drugs.
  • “Neurofibromatosis (NF) Recommendations (NF Care App)” -  an interactive program to assess a child for NF. 
  • “AVI: A Virtual Pet for Children with NF” - this winning project also received incubation funding based on its strong plan for future development;
  • “Cutaneous Neurofibromas Drug Discovery - Copper and Zinc as New Candidates” - a proposed study to test copper and zinc complexes to treat cutaneous neurofibromas.

Two additional teams were invited to continue to receive advisory support from the NF Incubator: “NF Knowledge Explorer” and “Deep Learning for NF Tumor Segmentation.”

“We were truly amazed at the diversity of projects submitted and the international scope of participants from so many disciplines,” said Salvatore La Rosa, Chief Scientific Officer of the Children’s Tumor Foundation. “This event has helped us expand awareness and bring new talents to the table to build solutions for the NF community. We are excited to see how these new resources and methodologies will frame the future of NF research.”

NF, short for neurofibromatosis, is a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. It affects 2.5 million people worldwide and there is currently no cure. There is one approved drug for the treatment of inoperable plexiform neurofibromas, a subset of the NF1 patients. Rare diseases like NF represent a research area with high unmet medical need and an opportunity to make a difference. 

More than 400 active participants took part in the Hack for NF from around the world, plus more than 40 mentors. 

Josh Meier, Principal Software Architect at Salesforce and an NF parent and spouse, served as a mentor in the Hackathon.

“The idea of bringing together the science, medical, and technical disciplines was so obvious and yet something I had never seen before,” said Josh Meier. “It will take time, but I truly believe that the innovative ideas coming from CTF are not only going to result in breakthroughs in the NF space but also potentially change the entire landscape of medical research and patient care.”

This is the second hackathon that the Children's Tumor Foundation has hosted. In September 2019, data scientists, artificial intelligence experts, and engineers gathered at the Google Launchpad in San Francisco, California to ‘hack’ genomic, research, and imaging/clinical data from the NF Data Portal, in order to bring their unique insights and experiences to help accelerate NF medical research.

The 2020 Hack for NF was presented by Graphpad Prism and Salesforce. Additional sponsors and data partners included: NTAP, the Gilbert Family Foundation, AstraZeneca, CereXis, Cydan, Genuity Science, Healx, Wuxi AppTech, Life Science Nation/RESI (Redefining Early Stage Investments) Conference Series, Arctoris, Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium, Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, Elseveir, Sage Bionetworks, DNAnexus, NF Open Science Initiative, NF Data Portal, and the NF Registry.


To learn more about the Hack for NF, click here.

To learn more about the Children’s Tumor Foundation, click here

About the Children’s Tumor Foundation

The Children’s Tumor Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding effective treatments for the millions of people worldwide living with neurofibromatosis (NF), a term for three distinct disorders: NF1, NF2, and schwannomatosis. NF causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body and may lead to blindness, deafness, bone abnormalities, disfigurement, learning disabilities,disabling pain, and cancer. NF affects 1 in every 3,000 births across all populations equally. There is one approved drug for the treatment of inoperable plexiform neurofibromas, a subset of NF1 patients.The Children’s Tumor Foundation’s mission of driving research, expanding knowledge, and advancing care for the NF community fosters our vision of one day ending all manifestations of NF.

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